Fig Tree - Growing, Care and Harvesting Guide

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by Max - last update on October 22, 2020, 8:25 pm
Fig Tree Care

Figs are sweet and tasty fruits that thrive in warmer climates. These fruit trees are incredibly easy to grow and care for as they’ll happily thrive in both containers or ground.

If you would love to grow your own fig tree and enjoy its fruits within 2 years of planting, we have all the tips you need to get you started. So let’s take an in-depth look into growing and caring for these delicious fruit trees right here.

Fig Tree Quick Overview

Quick Facts

OriginNorthwest Asia and Middle East
FamilyMoraceae
Hardiness zone8-11
FertilizerEvery 2 weeks during growing season until mature
Max growth20-30 feet
Poisonous forSap is toxic to dogs
LightFull sun
WaterOnce a week
ClimateLong hot summers and mild winters
SoilWell-drained with plenty of organic matter
PropagationFrom cuttings
PestsThrips, endosepsis, phomopsis canker

Celeste

Celeste Figs

With small, sweet and purple figs, this tree is one of the hardiest varieties that tolerates cold temperatures.

Brown Turkey

Brown Turkey Figs

This fig tree produces medium to large figs and grows best in warm climates.

Hardy Chicago

Another winter-hardy fig tree variety that produces medium-size figs.

Kadota

A fast-producing fig tree with small to medium-size fruit. The figs are sweet and rich tasting, thus the reason it is mostly sold as canned figs.

King

This fig tree variety is well adapted for cooler climates and produces sweet medium-size figs.

Caprifigs

This fig tree variety produces inedible fruit. But it plays a very important role as pollinators for other fig types to bear edible fruits. This fig tree only produces male flowers that pollinate the female trees.

Smyrna

The male flowers of caprifigs pollinate this fig tree variety as the smyrna only produces female flowers.

San Pedro

This fig tree variety only produces two crops. One will form on the wood and require male flowers to pollinate it, while the second crop grows on the leafless, mature wood and doesn’t require pollination.

Common Fig

Let’s not forget the ever popular common fig! This fig variety can be grown in any condition because you don’t need other fig trees for pollination. Since this fig tree doesn’t require pollination, it is hardier and less susceptible to rot as insects and rainwater can’t get inside the fruit.

For a more detailed about the types of fig trees, you can read this article here.

Fig Tree Care Guide

Climate

Fig tree climate

Most varieties of fig trees thrive in long, hot summers and moderate winters. In cooler climates, these trees can be grown indoors in a greenhouse or containers. If you live in an area with severe winters, you can still grow a fig tree outdoors provided you give it proper protection by covering the tree with burlap. If possible, grow the fig tree in a large pot so you can bring it indoors during the winter months.

Watering

To help your fig tree get established, water it regularly. In areas with dry and hot climates, water the tree deeply once or twice a week. Give the tree a gallon of water (a bucketful) and make sure the soil around the plant is soaked. Every time the soil around the tree is dry, pour a bucket of water all around it.

If the tree’s leaves turn yellow or start wilting, this is a sign of thirst so give it more water and increase the watering sessions from two to three times instead.

Light

Fig trees require full sun to thrive. If grown indoors, be sure to place the container in a sunny spot where it can receive adequate sunshine. Fig trees need as much sun as possible to produce the most fruit. In fact, they need at least 8 hours of sun exposure a day. Less sun means your fig tree will produce more leaves but not as many fruits.

Soil

Fig tree soil

Fig trees love well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter. Opt for sandy soil over clay or loam. If you’re not sure what type of soil your tree is growing in, test it using a home soil test kit. These kits will tell you the pH level of the soil and whether it is deficient in nutrients. As long as the pH level of your soil isn’t too low or high, and it is well-draining, your fig tree will happily grow and yield fruit.

Heavy soil needs to be loosened up before planting a fig tree. The easiest way to do this is by adding lots of organic compost or manure to the soil at a depth of 18-25 inches.

Fertilizer

The good news is that fig trees are pretty low maintenance and will grow happily without much fertilization. They get all the nutrients they need from the organic matter in their soil. Having said that, if your tree needs a quick boost of nutrients, feed it with a potassium and phosphorus-rich fertilizer during the growing season. Be sure to follow the product’s instructions on how often and how much fertilizer to apply. Avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen as this nutrient promotes green foliage growth instead of fruit production.

If your fig tree has stunted growth, it would be beneficial to apply a kelp (a type of seaweed) fertilizer every two weeks throughout the growing season.

Propagation

Fig tree propagation

The easiest propagating method is by taking cuttings from an existing fig tree. Winter is the best time to propagate figs as this is the time they are in dormancy.

Cut pieces of around 8 inches long but make sure you don’t cut the thickest branches. Cut from where the leaf was growing right above a little bud. A new stem will grow from this point.

Place the cutting in a small container that’s filled with moist soil and put the pot in a cool spot. New shoots will start growing from this cutting soon after.

The reason you should place the container in a cool spot rather than warm is so the plant doesn’t wake up to warmer temperatures. Winter is the time when fig trees are in dormancy so they shouldn’t be kept at room temperature. However, if you want your plant to wake up sooner, leave it under a grow light to stimulate root development.

And finally, don’t forget to water the soil once every two weeks!

Planting in Ground

If you wish to plant your container-grown fig tree in the ground instead of in a new pot, follow these quick steps:

Step 1. Take out the tree from its pot and remove any tied up roots. Use a shear to cut through the roots.

Step 2. Dig a hole a few inches wider and deeper than the root ball of the fig tree. Now put the tree in the center of the dug up hole. Make sure the roots are spread out away from the trunk.

Step 3. The tree needs to be planted 2-4 inches deeper than it was in its original pot. This will give the roots adequate space to develop.

Step 4. After planting the fig tree in the ground, water the soil around it.

Best Time to Plant Figs Outdoors

When planting fig trees outdoors, the best time is in early spring or late fall as these are when the trees are dormant.

Repotting

Container grown fig trees can’t stay in their nursery pots forever. You will have to repot them every 3 to 5 years to keep them healthy. As a rule of thumb, repot them during winter months when they are dormant. This gives them time to re-establish themselves before spring.

To repot your fig tree, take 1 quarter of an inch of soil from its previous pot. Take the tree out of the pot by loosening the clumps of roots and cutting the overgrown ones. Now place your fig tree in its new, larger pot and fill all around it with additional potting mix. After repotting the tree, water it.

Pruning

Since fig trees are very low maintenance plants, the pruning part is just as simple as their fertilization process. You don’t need to prune your fig tree often in order to keep it healthy. However, check the tree during the dormant season and remove any diseased or weak branches. This will encourage new growth.

If your fig tree is in the ground during winter, be sure to remove any dying branches from the ground level. In spring, check to see if the tree starts growing again. You may have to thin out the branches if your tree produces very small figs. Thinning out the fig tree will encourage new growth and larger fruits. But only do this in late fall after the tree has gone in dormancy.

Harvesting Tips

Harvest figs
  • Harvest your figs only when they are fully ripe. If you pick them too early, the fruit won’t continue ripening once it’s off the tree. The fig should feel slightly soft to the touch, hang down and be fully colored.
  • When picking your ripe figs, wear gloves and long sleeves as the sap may irritate your skin.
  • Figs are perishable fruits so they will only keep for 2 days in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, freeze them for later use or dry the figs in a dehydrator.

Common Diseases and Pests

Fig rust: If the fig tree’s leaves start turning yellow or fall out, this could be due to fig rust. This is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves of the fig tree. To treat, spray neem oil on the tree’s roots once per week until the tree looks healthy again.

Leaf blight: This is another fungal disease that creates small holes in the fig tree’s leaves. Typical signs include fungus webs underneath the leaves and moist yellow spots. To treat, remove the infected leaves.

Thrips: These pests can stun the fig tree’s growth and cause leaf loss. To get rid of thrips, trim any dead or injured twigs before spraying the roots with neem oil once per week.

Endosepsis: This disease is spread by wasps that enter the unripe fig and lay eggs in it. When the wasp dies inside the fig, fungus starts developing. To treat the soil surrounding the tree, apply fungicide.

Phomopsis canker: If the fig tree has been overpruned, this fungus can enter the tree’s bark. The infected bark will show signs of dead tissue around the wound. To treat, remove the diseased branches.

FAQs

How fast do fig trees grow?

Fig trees are relatively quick growers and can get as tall as 30 feet. However, these trees won’t fruit until they reach 2 years old, depending on the variety grown. In fact, some can take as long as 4-5 years to mature.

How can I protect my fig tree from frost?

While mature south-facing fig trees have a bigger chance of surviving the winter frost, with a little extra care, young fig trees can also get through the cold season. Wrap the trees in layers of burlap to protect them from wind and frost damage.

Do fig trees need daily watering?

As a rule of thumb, fig trees require at least 1 inch of water per week. If grown in containers, the trees need more frequent watering, especially during warmer months. Always check the topsoil with your finger to see if it’s dry. Never water more than necessary to prevent root rot.

What is the easiest fig tree to grow?

The common fig tree is the most popular and easiest type of fig tree for home gardeners. The main reason for this lies in the fact that the flowers don’t need pollination in order to bear fruit.

Conclusion

Now that you know exactly how to grow and care for your newly planted fig tree, you can look forward to some delicious and sweet figs very soon. With a little dedication, you can keep your fig tree healthy and thriving all year round with routine watering and fertilizing every so often.

Fig Tree - Growing, Care and Harvesting Guide

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